10 Best Movies Based On Comics

Friday, February 25 by Alan Rankin

The 10 best movies based on comics are a mixed bag at this point in history. At first, movie producers were only interested in telling superhero stories, which rarely received rave reviews. But in the 21st century, movies based on comics have gained critical respect, widespread commercial success, and even some Oscar nominations.

  1. “Superman.” The first modern superhero movie emphasized cutting-edge special effects with its poster tagline, “You’ll believe a man can fly.” Indeed, the film won an Oscar for special effects in 1979. Then-unknown Christopher Reeve became the face of Superman for a generation with his star-making performance.
  2. “Tank Girl.”The B-movie aesthetic of this 1995 adaptation perfectly matched Jamie Hewlett’s anarchic British comic. Lori Petty is Hewlett’s post-apocalyptic punk hero, battling evil Malcolm McDowell with the help of Ice-T’s mutant kangaroo. The cult classic includes snatches of Hewlett’s original comics pages between scenes.
  3. “Ghost World.” Daniel Clowes’ naturalistic stories made for a very different kind of comics movie. As teen Thora Birch discovers art and her own humanity, she grows apart from shallow best friend Scarlett Johansson. The film’s screenplay won an Oscar nomination for Clowes, a first for a comics artist.
  4. “Spider-Man 2.” The first movie was fun, but the second one featured everything a Spidey fan could want. The plot combined elements from a half-dozen classic Stan Lee stories, along with plenty of Easter eggs for hardcore fanboys. The sympathetic performance of Alfred Molina as Doc Ock meant even the bad guy had depth and complexity.
  5. “Sin City.” Director Robert Rodriguez wanted to do right by Frank Miller’s stylish hard-boiled pulp stories. Consequently, he hewed so close to the imagery of the comics that he named Miller as a co-director. It may be the most faithful comic book adaptation ever made.
  6. “Road to Perdition.” Max Allan Collins’ comic about a renegade hit man and his son was a monochrome masterpiece. The 2002 film adds color and characters and subtracts some violence, but is no less affecting. This was Paul Newman’s last film and his final Oscar nomination.
  7. “American Splendor.” Harvey Pekar’s highly regarded comics revealed the minor but telling details of his everyday life. The 2003 film had Paul Giamatti offering Pekar’s insights into the human experience. The filmmakers hired the real Harvey to narrate, an inspired touch.
  8. “Iron Man.”The superhero movie, and Robert Downey Jr.’s career, were both reinvigorated with director Jon Favreau’s 2008 techno-thriller. The opening “origin story” is almost identical to the Stan Lee comic from 1963, just updated to a different war. The film’s rocketing success launched a Marvel film series based on “The Avengers.”
  9. “The Dark Knight.”Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to “Batman Begins” was a worldwide smash. Part of this was due to Heath Ledger’s riveting portrayal of the Joker, his final film role. He won an Oscar for his performance, a first for a superhero film.
  10. “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” Bryan Lee O’Malley’s indy comic seemed an unlikely choice for a movie. But Michael Cera proved a perfect match for the title character, who must battle his gal’s super-powered ex-boyfriends. Critics and fans alike adored the results.
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